Driving to and from your garage and merely existing in an association is not the only option. Living within an association provides you with many opportunities to become involved in your community. Assuming you meet any qualifications which exist within the documents, one of the best ways to be involved in your community is to serve on the board of directors. By getting involved, you can make a difference!
If you don’t think you have enough time to volunteer as a board member, you can start by serving on a committee. Committees can be created for any valid purpose and members of committees often serve as advisors to the board for many various functions. Almost every association will have an architectural committee of some sort. Architectural committees are established to review applications for architectural modifications to determine whether the applications comply with any requirements set forth in the governing documents and whether the proposed improvement is aesthetically in keeping with the remainder of the community.
The board of an association may also create committees for landscaping, general enforcement, parking enforcement or for any other necessary purpose. Enforcement committees can assist the board in determining whether violations exist within the association. Parking committees can help the board in establishing new parking regulations or assist the board in enforcing existing regulations.
Committees need not be standing. That is, if the board has a decision to make which will require in-depth research and analysis and/or a need to obtain bids from multiple contractors, the board can establish a committee for the specific purpose of performing these tasks. Once the committee has served its purpose it can be disbanded.
When establishing a committee, boards should set forth the specific purpose, function, duties and duration of the committee in a formal charter. Setting up the ground rules for committees at the very beginning will go a long way toward helping the committees serve their proper function. This will also prevent any problems or issues that may arise if a committee attempts to perform an undesired function or role within the association or fails to perform the functions desired by the board.
You can also make a difference within the community by simply being a good neighbor. Being a good neighbor does not mean turning a blind eye to violations; it can simply mean getting to know your neighbors. In today’s day and age we often overlook our neighbors in the rush to get to work, get to the gym, get home, etc. If your association sponsors community events you should volunteer, or at minimum attend. You will likely be surprised to learn how many of your neighbors share the same ideas and likes as you. Remember, you all moved to the same community because you liked it!
Being a good neighbor may also mean taking the time to speak with your neighbor about things which might annoy you or which might be viewed as violations of the association’s governing documents. Many owners are under the mistaken belief that their association is an enforcement tool which they can use to force their neighbors to do what the documents say. While it is true that the association should enforce its documents, the association is not, and should be used as, a tool to harass your neighbors. Take the time to get to know your neighbors and let them know if they are doing something you think is wrong. You never know what kind of a friend you may make in the process.
The converse is also true. Take the time to understand your association’s governing documents. Even if you do not have time to learn the rules, make an effort to think about your actions and how they may be affecting your neighbors. Do you always park in front of your neighbor’s home? Have you thought about how this may affect your neighbor? Do you regularly maintain your lawn? Do you regularly paint your home? Do you exhibit pride of ownership in your home in other manners? Do you properly screen your tenants and make sure that they are aware of the association’s regulations? Do you take the extra 30 seconds to bring in your neighbor’s trash cans for them? Many of the little things which are often overlooked can create an amazing amount of goodwill and community pride within your development.
Take a moment to think about all of the small things you can do to make a difference. None of these things need cost a fortune or even anything at all. While they may seem small when viewed independently, in the aggregate they will make a difference.
You can comply with your documents. While living within a common interest development is not for everyone, people who move into these developments do so for a variety of reasons. One of these reasons is because everyone within the community is supposed to live by the same standards. To make this happen, everyone within a community should make their best effort to comply with the rules, regulations and other governing documents. The first step in maintaining community standards begins with you! You CAN make a difference!